Monday, November 4, 2013

France Roundup. First up, PARIS

4 days and 3 nights in Paris is really not long enough. Good thing we ate about 6 meals a day...

We hit all the main museums and attractions, but let's not kid ourselves, we were just killing time in between meals! "It was all about the food", is a complete understatement. Here you'll find a roundup of my food highlights. 

DAY #1

First stop, L'Avenue, 41 Ave Montaigne, 75008. +33 1 40 71 14 91

  • Atmosphere: Upscale, "see and be seen" type of place. Chic neighborhood, great outdoor seating and comfortable upstairs mezzanine area. 
  • Food: Solid. Straight off the plane, jetlagged and confused, we had a pretty good meal. Bloody Mary's, Tuna Tartare, great salads, and a nice al dente fresh tomato Rigatoni
  • Overall: Reminiscent of Cipriani's. The food is  good, but you are coming here for the scene. The waiters are professional, pretty, and curt. This place is not cheap, but you are paying for the atmosphere as much as anything else. 

 For dinner on our first night in Paris, we want somewhere authentic. A real French Bistro

Fontaine de Mars, 129 Rue St Dominique, 75007. +33 1 47 05 46 44

  • Atmosphere: Genuine French Bistro.  Small and cozy with tables crammed next to each other and a small bar in the front. There seems to be a lot of locals here, with a smattering of tourists. This is where the Obama's ate at on their last trip. 
  • Food: The waiter recommends a nice French full bodied bottle of wine that we thoroughly enjoy. The food itself is good, if not mind blowing. We started with special of the night, mushroom soup drizzled with truffle oil (not pictured), delicious poached eggs with some kind of cream sauce (you know I can never get enough eggs!) and a flavorful leek appetizer. The highlight is the delicious Dover Sole that the kitchen split for us, and the creamy mashed potatoes that come on the side. The Floating Island dessert was pretty cool too. Not sure exactly what it is, but it's a must order. 
  • Overall: I like this place. It feels very French. It's also a 3 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower, should you desire an evening stroll after dinner. 

Next up, Market. And yes this is all still day one. A friend of ours is out having a late dinner here, so we joined for some appetizers and dessert, and sit next to a very cool and collected Lenny Kravitz! 

Market, 15 Avenue Matignon 750008. 01 56 43 40 90 

  • I like Market. Get the signature Jean George dishes like truffle pizza. Market is definitely a scene, more than a foodie paradise. The dessert sampler was pretty awesome.  

 Day #2

Start the day with some fresh Pastries bought at a random cafe near the hotel. You can't really go wrong with croissants, and chocolate brioche for that matter. 

After some touring, we jumped off the double decker bus in the Left Bank area of Paris, and walk some of the famous streets and shops. Lunch stop at Ralph's in the amazingly beautiful Ralph Lauren store on St Germaine

Ralph's, 173 bd Saint-Germain, 75006. 33 1 44 77 76 00 

  • Atmosphere: This place is just so beautiful. From the umbrellas to the tableware, to the staff uniforms, it's all so very, well, Ralph Lauren. Sit outside in the garden and just take a deep breath and enjoy. I can't get over how nice the outdoor patio area is. I wish I lived next door and I could just sit here everyday. Service is terrible, but it doesn't really matter.
  • Food: Fair. Caesar salad is nothing special. Smoked Salmon Tartine and Veggie Burger are better. Popcorn that comes to the table is addicting. 
  • Overall: Go. You can't not like this place. Expensive for what it is, but then again, so is most of Paris.

Late afternoon, Crepe stop, somewhere near the Notre Dame...
Nutella + Banana = amazeballs. 

Dinner time. I'm beyond excited that I secured a 7:30 reservation at the world famous, Le Chateaubriand for dinner tonight. Though some would disagree, this place did not live up to the hype. 

**Disclaimer here, I don't eat meat or shellfish (that is not kosher), so our lackluster experience could be partially blamed on accommodating our dietary restrictions**

Le Chateaubriand, 129 Ave Parmentier, 75011. +33 1 43 57 45 95
  • Atmosphere: First off, realize that this place is a solid 20 minute drive from central Paris. The place itself is extremely simple. As in, I thought perhaps I was in the wrong place. Rated one of the best restaurants in the WORLD, I was a little taken aback. But I am more than cool with a casual vibe, as long as the food is up to par.
  • Food: I really did want to love it. The chef comes over and explains that there is no menu, they just send things out. He seems more than fine with the no meat or shellfish stipulation. Things come out, one after another, but there is no WOW. Some things are good (ceviche shot, weird egg custard dessert), some just okay  (tomatoes covered in cheese, a few fish courses), and some just missed the mark completely (oily strange soup with floating radish, iced chocolate dessert, boring fried peppers).  
  • Overall: Although many claim it's a "steal" by the end of the dinner with the wine, beer, and tip, dinner for 2 people came out to over $200 US dollars. Not the most expensive meal in Paris, but by no means cheap! I definitely left feeling disappointed. At this level I expected every bite to be spectacular and the reality just didn't live up to my expectations on this one.  

Day #3

One of the best things we ate all trip, surprisingly came from the kosher falafel place on rue de Rosiers, in the heart of the Jewish District of Paris, Le Marais. This area is very hipster chic, with a ton of cool shops and little cafes that you can wander around for hours. 

L'As du Fallafel, 34 rue des Rosiers, 75004. +33 1 48 87 63 60 
  • There's about 6 other falafel places on this same block. They are all empty and there is a line 20 people deep here. And for good reason! This place is the sh*t. The real deal. Dirty, grimy, yummy Israeli food at its finest. The Falafel Pita is the thing to get, but the sauces and sides and pretty much everything else is damn good too. 

 A couple of hours later we find ourselves wondering around Plaza de la Madeleine, a chocolate lovers dream. Surrounded by some of the world's finest chocolate purveyors, the toughest decision is what to try first! Dried sugared fruit, delicious creamy macaroons (Pierre Herme had our favorite), or some salted dark chocolate by the piece? Purely for research sake, we must sample them all....

  • Jean Paul Hevin; 231 rue Saint Honore
  • La Maison du Chocolat; 8 Boulevard de la Madeleine 
  • Marquise de Sevigne; 11 Place de la Madeleine
  • Fauchon; 24-26 Place de la Madeleine
  • Hediard; 21 Place de la Madeleine 

Dinner day 3, we crave Italian. Told that La Grand Venise is the best Italian in town, off we go (another 20 minute drive) to our next food adventure.

Le Grand Venise, 171 Rue Conventionm 75015. +33 1 45 32 49 71
  • Writing this 2 weeks later, I'm still scratching my head over this one. It was a strange dinner. Not what I was expecting, but not necessarily in a bad way. Le Grand Venise is a small cozy space comprised of 2 small rooms. They do things a bit different here. Some examples. After 3 days of too much wine, I asked for a Vodka cocktail. I was given a BOTTLE of vodka, a glass, and no explanation. Next we were brought a Vegetable Garden in lieu of bread. Legit, I actually pulled tomatoes off of vines, cut up radishes, and peeled some peppers! All delicious and fresh, just a little strange. When we order we ask the waitress (who I believe is also the owner) if she can make us a nice vegetable starter, followed by 2 pastas to share for our main. We were not starving, just wanted a small taste of Italy while in France. Below is what came as a starter. A RIDICULOUS amount of food. The pastas (not pictured) are really good too. Everything was tasty, there was just an obscene amount of it. Highlight was definitely the Caramel Ice Cream that gets carved and shaved table tableside  This place is also a fortune, doesn't really matter how much or little you order, so beware and come hungry! 

Day #4
Breakfast at Angelina, then we are off via train to the beautiful quaint village of Avignon in the Provence region of France.

Angelina, 226 rue de Rivoli, +33 1 42 60 82 00 
  • Great last meal in paris. This place is perfect for breakfast or a tea time. It reminds me of a nicer version of Sarabeth's here in New York. Delicious pastries, fresh coffee, and yummy breakfast food. We got a Truffle Omlette, some pasties and their famous rich delicious chocolately hot chocolate or "Chocolat Chaud" with whipped cream.